It can be easy to walk past the homeless person on the corner, the woman lying on the street, or the man at the intersection holding a handwritten sign. They become almost invisible to many. But families are among the most invisible -- you don’t often see them on the street, but chances are they are living in a parked car somewhere.
It is heartbreaking to imagine children living in a car with their parents, without a warm bed, a place to bathe and a home to play in. How did they end up here? What do they need to get back into a home? These questions don’t always have easy answers and the extent of someone’s past troubles or life choices can be impossible to know.
The Mission of Solutions for Change is to solve family homelessness – One family, one community at a time. Here is one example.
Monica and her boyfriend Johnny were struggling with addiction. Unemployed, with no resources, they were barely making it. Torn between paying the electricity or the light bill, the couple could no longer pay rent and as a result became homeless with their children. The family resorted to living and sleeping in their car, at times in dark and dangerous places. They went from place to place trying to find meals to eat. One of the most difficult aspects was finding a restroom where they could take their children to clean them and change their clothes to be ready for school.
It’s a heart wrenching dilemma that many families have to face. But Monica and Johnny found help, a hand up, and needed stability in Solutions for Change, which transformed their lives and that of their children.
While many public assistance programs seek to help families in distress, simply providing motel vouchers and even subsidized housing, is not a permanent solution. Although these may temporarily fix the problem, the solution is not a permanent one. Many times, addiction continues and destructive patterns and behaviors remain. If a troubled family is only moved to a more comfortable location, then the root cause of homelessness may not be addressed and therefore not resolved.
Solutions for Change notes “There are about a half a million children caught in the churn here in the United States, and unless we commit to solving it, these children face a greater likelihood of falling into the pattern of generational poverty and homelessness in the future.”
The organization’s approach differs greatly from handouts, feeding programs and shelter beds. Instead its goal and focus is an “innovative, permanent solution focused on well-being and capacity building.” It provides the right set of opportunities, addresses root causes of dependency, and equips people with the skills, knowledge, and resources to permanently solve their homelessness, by addressing three key areas: personal development (well-being), workforce development (economic capacity), and community development (service).
This program blends “affordable housing, educational opportunities, employment training and health related solutions all within one cohesive strategic partnership.” As a result, parents become role models their children need them to be. Parents see their children begin to excel in school. New opportunities become possible for families and the communities within which they live.
After completing the program, Monica and Johnny are now sober, living life responsibly for themselves and their children. They both work for Solutions for Change and are helping others. Johnny said, “We can share what we’ve learned and help them on their journey to help transform them.”
While Johnny was diagnosed with cancer, it was comforting to know that his family had a safe place to live. After his recovery, Johnny and Monica took the next step, getting married on the premises of Solutions for Change, surrounded by their children, friends and support staff.
Monica says she feels forever blessed and that it is both beautiful and comforting that her family is at a peace again. Her husband Johnny noted that their children are laughing once more, simply being kids again. The family has a real home and stability, a future and new hope. “It’s an amazing journey and we’re so grateful for it.”
Solutions for Change has been empowering families to grow beyond their vulnerabilities to attain true freedom from dependency and become productive, "tax-paying" citizens. Every year, with community support, they impact hundreds of lives. For over two decades, they have provided transformative services to 1250 families and 2500 children.